The Fittest
Earl Sixteen
JahSolidRock / Heartbeat Europe
May 25, 2011

The Fittest - Earl Sixteen Track list
  1. Masterplan
  2. Master Version
  3. Rise Up
  4. Rise Up Version
  5. Modern Slavery
  6. Slavery Version
  7. Sinner Man
  8. Wicked Man Version
  9. This Yah Business
  10. 12inch Rockers Version feat. U-Roy
  11. Stay Together
  12. Together Version
  13. Big Car
  14. Big Car Version
  15. Fittest Of The Fittest
  16. Fittest Version
  17. Changing Times
  18. Changing Times Version
  19. The Key
  20. The Key Version
Rate this album!
Cast your vote below.

Essential -Votes: 14-
Very Good -Votes: 5-
Good -Votes: 3-
Average -Votes: 1-
Disappointing -Votes: 0-
A Waste Of Time -Votes: 0-

Total votes : 23
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
Jamaican singer Earl Sixteen -- born Earl Daley in Kingston, Jamaica -- recorded his first single in the first half of the 1970s with his group The Flaming Phonics, but it wasn't until he hooked up with Lee "Scratch" Perry at his Black Ark Studio that he started to make a name for himself. During the period 1975-80 he recorded bonafied classics for producers like the aforementioned Lee "Scratch" Perry ("Cheating" and "Freedom"), Augustus Pablo ("Changing World" and "Rastaman"), and Derrick Harriott ("Malcom X"), to name only three.

With Mikey Dread he teamed up for sessions backed by the Roots Radics Band and mixed by Scientist at King Tubbys studio. Tunes such as "Reggae Sound", "Jah Is The Master", "African Tribesman" and the album "Reggae Sound" all helped to build Earl's name and reputation as a quality songwriter and singer. The first full-length album that truly satisfied from beginning to end was his mid-1980s set "Showcase", which he recorded for Studio One producer Coxsone Dodd. Since then Earl Sixteen has recorded quite a few albums for various producers, but except for the Gussie P produced "Wondrous Works" set from 2000, none of them proved to be fully satisfying.

And now there's Earl Sixteen's long awaited and much anticipated new album "The Fittest", for which he teamed up with producers Manu Genius and Marc Baronner of Amsterdam-based Not Easy At All Productions. With the release of two highly praised albums, Chezidek's "Judgement Time" and Apple Gabriel's "Teach Them Right", the Not Easy At All collective of producers and musicians has quickly earned a reputation as a reliable force when it comes to producing worthwhile modern reggae music with an authentic roots reggae vibe.

Just like the previous releases, this Earl Sixteen collection is a 'showcase' album (the vocal cut followed by its dub version 'inna 12inch stylee'), with all riddim tracks being fresh originals, played by real musicians with real horns, real drums, etc. Right from the beginning it's obvious we are dealing with one of Earl Sixteen's best albums. The opening track, "Masterplan", with its inspired roots vocals riding masterfully a truly wicked roots riddim, is simply great to hear. The conscious "Rise Up" is a solid effort in which he says about the youths of today (the now generation)... "They're only thinking of pure vanity now, easy money and the technology.", urging them to "do the right and keep away from the wrongs." Next comes the wonderful reality tune "Modern Slavery" that deals with child labour and the consequences of being poor. Big tune with great lyrical content!

"Sinner Man" turns out to be a real winner. Not only Earl Sixteen's impassioned vocal and lyrical delivery is great to hear, also the riddim with its bubbling bass line, Spanish guitar picking and awesome horns is outstanding. In "This Yah Business" he expresses his worries about the current state of the reggae business, while the version sees the deejay pioneer U-Roy doing his thing in his instantly recognizable style. "Stay Together", a prime example of the singer's ability to deliver a solid lovers tune, is followed by a worthy do-over of William DeVaughn's Soul classic "Big Car".

The slow-paced bass driven "Collie Weed" riddim underpins the previous single "The Fittest Of The Fittest", a strong tune in which he pays tribute to Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. "Changing Times" is underpinned by a familiar riddim as it was also used for the Chezidek and Apple Gabriel albums, while the lyrics are taken from the original Dennis Brown tune. Even though "The Key" has a good sounding riddim, it's the weakest track around. Don't know why Earl Sixteen, and also artists like e.g. Johnny Clarke and Willi Williams, always comes up with these kinda 'reggae, reggae' songs. It doesn't make any sense and it's a waste of time to listen to such a tune.

All tracks are complemented by mostly blistering dub versions, which in most cases bring to mind people like King Tubby and Scientist. Overall opinion is that "The Fittest" is a first-rate production, which shouldn't be overlooked. Highly recommended!